This post is a little different from my usual ones, but I felt as though it was a really important one to write. *Disclaimer!* It is in no way a rant, or a way to discourage anyone from starting a blog – in fact it’s quite the opposite. But I do think it’s very important to write a blog for the right reasons. So with that as the preface, this blog is all about the how, why and when to start writing a blog – in my opinion. Of course this is not a definitive guide, I am only speaking from my own personal experience, but hopefully some of this will help other aspiring bloggers to get started and avoid any common mistakes.
So, first of all let me give you some context. Why am I writing this blog? Why now?
The reason I felt as though I need to write to this blog was following my coverage at Burghley last month (did I mention that I went Burghley?! You can read more here if by some miracle you missed it!). Following the coverage I received numerous messages and emails about how to starting blogging, or more specifically how to get brands to work with you, asking how did I get companies to send me clothes and many other variations on this theme. I have to say these messages ignited a mixed bag of emotions, from flattery, to somewhere between disappointment and frustration – for which the latter were the basis for writing this blog.
So why did I feel this way when I saw these messages? There’s lots of reasons really but here are the main ones:
- My blog is not a platform for receiving freebees. Not now, not ever. So I was angry that some people may see it that way because I try really hard to keep it real. By that I mean, the products featured are all ones I have, or would have bought full price. The whole point of my blog is to feature products that I genuinely love, so I frequently turn away the proposal of free goods in exchange for a blog posts. I am incredibly lucky to have a number of companies who have honoured me with the position of being a brand ambassador, so from time to time I do receive some amazing gifts to blog about, but that is not and will never be the sole intention of my blog, (I know I said this post wasn’t a rant…but this point kind of is!).
- Blogging is not a way of receiving free goods. Or at least it shouldn’t be. My biggest piece of advice – please do not start a blog with the sole intention of receiving free things. Why? Mainly because it’s completely unfair on the companies who work so hard to produce quality products, who often can’t really afford to give anything away and do so because they trust the blogger to increase their exposure or sales, or whatever it may be. I’m thinking of a number of my favourite brands here, who are small, family businesses and have been duped a number of times by people who claim to be bloggers but really have hidden agendas and have done nothing to support the brand before, or after receiving the free/discounted product.
So with that said, I wanted to point out some of my essential Do’s and Don’ts for starting your blog (just in case you missed them, there’s a couple of obvious don’ts above!)
- Write about something that you are passionate about. There is absolutely no point starting a blog about something you’re a). not really that interested in, b). don’t really have any knowledge of, or c). have seen someone else doing the same thing and because it’s a success it seems like a good idea. Trust me, if you write a blog for any of the reasons stated above, people will know and will not be interested in reading your content. Everyone is different, and that’s the best thing about the world! Who wants to be the same as everyone else? I know I don’t! You are you because of the individual things that make you you. So use them, play to your strengths and write about something that is individual to you. It’s so easy to write about things you love and for me thats the most important thing about my blog – because I don’t do it full time, I certainly don’t want to spend my free time writing about something I don’t really enjoy – life’s far too short for that!
- Support your brands. Not all blogs have an element of advertising or brand features and these are often the best ones to read! but if you are going to feature different companies, then do it for the right reasons. By that I mean, feature the brands that you genuinely love or have a connection with – if you love a brand that means you will have been a customer of them, or had some experience of the brand before deciding to write about them. The reason I started my blog? Because I had already bought so many pairs of Fairfax & Favor boots, that I was basically a walking advert for them already!
- Support each other. The world can be such a negative place at times, so why contribute to that. Think positive vibes, treat others how you would like to be treated and be nice to people! I know its a strange concept, but supporting each other really goes a long way. A couple of things I mean when I say support each other – the blogosphere is getting rather crowded and the concept of a country blog has become quite popular – so support your fellow bloggers by writing different content to them, don’t just copy what you see others doing. The topic you choose to write about will be fairly broad and there’s plenty of things to cover, so choose something from your own perspective or your individual style. Imagine how you would feel if you’d spent hours and hours creating a blog only to see someone recreate the exact same thing a few days later. It’s happened to me many times and it’s not nice. Also what I mean by supporting each other is the more literal form – give people praise where you think they’ve done a great job and they will be more willing to support you. Building a community of bloggers who support each other rather than tear each other down is vital to ensuring the blogosphere remains successful and useful!
- Stay true to YOU. This kind of goes hand in hand with point one, but is important to separate as a point of it’s own. People will only read content that is genuine (I bang on about it A LOT but it’s really important) and companies will only want to work with you if you are genuine. Write about content you are interested in, that means something to you. Write in your style. Post pictures that you have created. Of course, there’s inspiration to be taken from everywhere and it’s so easy to want to recreate pictures or content that have been successful for someone else, but just because it’s a winning formula for someone else doesn’t mean it will be for you, People will see the original picture or post and then they’ll see yours. And to be totally honest, they probably won’t even bother to read further than the first paragraph. Be original.
- Stay consistent. Nobody is good at everything, nor should they be. Stick to a theme, or at least keep your posts consistent with your life. You may be someone that does a million different hobbies and has 100 different styles, it’s unlikely but possible. So stick to something you do all the time, write about that (this goes back to the point I made about things being much easier if you enjoy the topic you’re writing about). If you have a particular style, don’t worry about being repetitive, stick with it. I am definitely guilty of this – I have a particular style and I do feature lots of different products, but they all stick to my style. I couldn’t offer an honest, useful or interesting opinion any other way, so I stick with what I know and feel comfortable with.
Now onto the negatives…
Pretty much the reverse of the do’s, so I’ll skip through them because no one wants to finish on a negative!
- Copy someone else. Take inspiration from them absolutely, use their posts and pictures as ideas for your own content. But don’t copy, anyone who tells you it’s flattery is deluded. It’s not nice and no one wants to read something that’s been regurgitated from a more successful post. It has happened to me a lot, and to be totally honest it’s quite soul destroying to see an imitation of something that you spent ages thinking of, creating and putting together. Your posts will be successful in their own right, so focus on building your empire rather than knocking down someone else’s.
- Do it for the wrong reasons. Ask yourself why are you writing this blog or this particular post? If the answers are something along the lines of a). to be more popular, b). to get noticed by a company c). to get free products, or d). because someone else has done it and it was successful. I know I’m repeating myself, and there is a reason for it. Please do not write a blog because you want something out of it or you have a hidden agenda. Of course everyone wants to be liked or be popular, I am absolutely one of those people. I’m also one of those people who worries when my engagement or likes fall, in fact I worry about it WAY too much. But I don’t write my blog for that reason. I write my blog because I enjoy writing so it’s almost like a journal for me. I write my blog because I am passionate about the countryside and country style – I want to get the word out there that us farming folk and country dwellers can be as chic as the city slickers and I want to champion new, small, independent, family-owned and unique British businesses.
- Write about something you’re not interested in. People are not interested in reading a half-hearted post about something you don’t particularly like. No matter how hard you try that will come across in your writing, so don’t waste your time – or your reader’s time.
- Write something for the sake of it. There is some truth in keeping consistency and frequency of posts high, and this is some of my own advice that I constantly ignore because I run out of time (I am frequently told that my timeline expectations are unrealistic!). But don’t write something because it’s Monday and you always post on Monday, or your haven’t written a post for X days/weeks. Write something when you have something to write about.
- Say yes to everything. Don’t say yes to every offer you have for collaborations or product reviews or whatever it may be, because if you do your blog will lack integrity. Say yes to the offers that interest you or are from the companies or people you like, you regularly use or you have experience of. By saying yes to every offer you get, you are in danger of cheapening your blog and also causing a lot of conflicts of interest. I never say yes to companies who have similar products or are direct competitors of the brands I already work with, or have worked with before. By being honest with the person who made the offer, they will respect you more and will probably be more likely to want to work with you in the future.
I really hope some of the content I’ve written here will resonate with those of you that are thinking of writing a blog or are just starting off in the blogging world, and I also hope it hasn’t come across as too much of a rant. I’m really passionate about my blog and about the companies I support and that equally (if not more so), support me. And I’m incredibly protective of that, because it’s so special. So make sure you are entering the blogging world for the right reasons and by following my essential tips you’re bound to be a success!
If you have any questions or want more advice, I’d love to hear from you so please feel free to get in touch.